A case filed Monday in the in the Eastern District of Federal Court in St. Louis names as defendants Phelps County Sheriff Don Blankenship and four law-enforcement officers for the deprivation of Constitutional civil rights and subsequent death of Jimmy Dwayne Farris.


A case filed Monday in the in the Eastern District of Federal Court in St. Louis names as defendants Phelps County Sheriff Don Blankenship and four law-enforcement officers for the deprivation of Constitutional civil rights and subsequent death of Jimmy Dwayne Farris.


Farris, then 38, died shortly before midnight Thursday, April 12, 2007, after he had been pulled over by Phelps County Sheriff’s Department deputies for a running a red light.


According to the 18-page, three-count petition, Farris was deprived of his Constitutional civil rights by Blankenship, three deputies and a military police officer who was riding along with the deputies that night.


The petition, which was brought by Regina (Kay) McDowell, Farris’ mother and S.F. Doe (Farris’ surviving daughter), names as defendants Blankenship, Aaron Pinson, Michael Manley, Mark Wynn and Thomas M. Buchness. Pinson, Manley, Wynn, and Buchness, the military police officer, were involved in the traffic stop of Farris.


While Pinson has since left the employment of the Sheriff’s Department, Manley and Wynn still are deputies. Wynn is the department’s canine officer. Buchness, who was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood at the time, now lives in Kansas.


“We believe there were several Constitutional rights violations of Mr. Farris, and he died of excessive force employed for a minor traffic stop,” said attorney Tyce Smith of the Smith & Turley law firm at 1102 North Pine. Smith is the attorney for the plaintiffs.


Phelps County Sheriff’s Department Detective Andy Davis, also serving as spokesman for the department, said he had not heard of the lawsuit.


“I really hate these words, but I have to say, we have no comment,” Davis said Tuesday afternoon.


Messages left for McDowell seeking comment went unreturned.


The suit, which has been assigned to Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, seeks a jury trial.


According to the petition, attorneys for the plaintiffs will attempt to show that Farris’ Constitutional rights were violated and that deputies used excessive force in the altercation that followed.


According to the petition, deputies and Buchness:
• searched Farris
• seized Farris
• struck Farris
• repeatedly sprayed Mace into Farris’ face
• threw Farris onto the tailgate of his vehicle, which he pulled off U.S. Route 63 onto the parking lot of Taco Bell restaurant
• threw Farris onto the parking lot
• confined Farris in handcuffs
• ignored Farris’ requests to let him breathe and statements the effect he could not breathe
• made nerve strikes to Farris’ limbs
• placed their combined weight on Farris and placed him in a dangerous position with no legal necessity to do so.


The suit contends under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Farris had the right to secure in his person and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Also, under the 14th Amendment, Farris had a right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.


The suit alleges that Blankenship has the authority and duty to train, supervise and discipline the deputies under his direction, and that he failed to adequately train the deputies and other peace officers to carry out their duties.


It also alleges that the sheriff’s failure to properly train the deputies was a direct and proximate cause of the deprivation of Farris’ Constitutional rights and his death.


The lawsuit does not ask for specific damages. However, the traffic stop, the struggle, acts, unreasonable search and seizure, alleged excessive use of force, alleged battery, failure to train officers and Farris’ death have contributed to pecuniary losses suffered by family members. It also mentions the cost of the funeral, and reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance and counsel that may have been brought on by the death of Farris all as actual damages.


The suit also asks for McDowell and Doe to recover the sums of money from each defendant in addition to any damages awarded for actual damages awarded in amounts as damages for aggravating circumstances in such sums as will serve to punish each defendant and to deter the defendants and other from like conduct.


Weeks after Farris’ death, autopsy reports found him to have methamphetamine in his system.


However, Dr. Jane Turner of the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office could not determine the source of the methamphetamine, saying that the traces in Farris’ system were so minute that it was virtually impossible to determine which version of the drug it was — either the d-type, which is the illicit kind, or the l-type, which is something that could be in Vicks or other cold medicines.


Sheriff’s deputies said Farris raged during the traffic stop and the force was needed to subdue him.


McDowell, Farris’ mother, said she knew her son was taking a medication for a springtime cold.


The case is No. 08-602-SNL.